Excerpt from “Walk B” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on May 22nd, 1856:
“Hitherto St. Catharines has been badly off for first-class Hotels, but E. W. Stephenson, Esq., was the first to lead off in the march of these improvements; and in suppling the increasing wants and demands of the public here, all merit, praise and patronage is deservedly due him. Last year Mr. Stephenson projected, planned and built a very large, elegant, three-story, tip top, first-class Hotel and opened it in apple-pie order, on Yates Street, in this Town, which, in connexion with the “chloride de calcium,” or Mineral Springs, was crowded during the season. Having made additional repairs and alterations, and having thoroughly overhauled, repainted and refixed it, he has the spring again opened it, and now awaits a generous and appreciating public, the feeble and invalids one and all, to call and make themselves perfectly at home with him, and to regain their shattered healths for his “Balm of Gilead,” his Mineral is an old and experienced hand, a dead shot, and a successful to the public taste and appetite, and is a perfect landlord and gentleman. His Hotel name is Canada-wide, United-States-wide and we had almost said world-wide; for he has been in this kind of business […] We bespeak for Mr. Stephenson, this season, great prosperity and success in his line of business.”
It has been said that few buildings in St. Catharines are as intimately connected with the history of this city as that of the Stephenson House. Built in 1855 on the northwest corner of Yates and Salina Streets, the Stephenson House was a marvel for its time. It was the first of the three popular spa hotels, along with the Welland House Hotel and Springbank Hotel. In fact, the springs on the property of the Stephenson House were linked up with the Welland House so they too could access the “miracle healing waters”.
Eleazer Williams Stephenson, Mayor of St. Catharines in 1851, was originally in the stagecoach business. However, when railroad traffic displaced the need for stagecoaches, he turned his attentions to providing high quality accommodations and spa treatments to local citizens and travelers alike. The mineral spring, from which spa treatments were drawn, was said to have the highest saline content of any spring on the continent. The belief in its curative values drew people from far and wide. In the spring and summer there were so many southerners that newspaper articles and publications described the town as being transformed to look just like a southernmost state. At the time, the booming economy in St. Catharines was partly attributed to the Stephenson house and its miraculous healing salt springs. On most days the Stephenson House was fully booked so visitors would stay at other hotels or rooming houses, but they would still dine in the restaurant, enjoy the salt baths and attend nightly events and activities.
The official opening of the hotel was held on June 4th, 1855.
Just 12 years later Stephenson passed away. His death was caused by an accident which occurred when a team of horses he was driving down Ontario Street bolted, throwing him violently to the ground. He died as a result of the injuries he sustained on 28 April 1867.
The hotel was extremely prosperous for just over 20 years, however when business dwindled, ownership changed hands a number of times. By 1889 it was home to the all-girls Demille College and by 1902 it was owned by Ridley College. In the 1920’s the building housed a macaroni factory. The Stephenson House was destroyed by fire in 1930 and demolished in 1931. The current area of Salina and Yates Streets is residential.